is one of the essential keys to great health.
Fortunately, doing so is easier than you think.
The immune system is a complex system of organs, cells and proteins that work together to help protect us against foreign invaders, including: viruses, bacteria, fungi and other foreign substances we may come into contact with. We rarely give it a second thought until we’re burning up with a fever or fighting some form of serious infection.
There are many ways to keep your immune system strong and healthy, including:
- Avoid smoking and secondhand smoke
- Don’t drink alcohol
- Exercising regularly
- Getting sufficient sleep
- Reducing stress as much as possible
- Washing hands regularly and thoroughly
- Thoroughly cooking any meat, fish, or poultry in your diet
- Eating a diet rich in immune-boosting fruits and vegetables
BEST IMMUNE-BOOSTING FOODS
Most fruits and vegetables, as well as other plant-based foods, boost the immune system, but some are better at it than others. Some of the best immune-boosting foods include:
Rich in the immune-boosting mineral, zinc, beets along with their leafy greens, are a great addition to your diet. Beets are also a rich source of prebiotics, the foods eaten by probiotics, or beneficial microbes, in your intestines. By eating more beets you’ll feed the healthy bacteria and other beneficial microbes that give your gut and immune health a boost. Add them to fresh juice, grate and add to salads and sandwiches, or roast and enjoy on their own.
Blueberries don’t just taste amazing, they are packed with nutrients known as flavonoids that give them their gorgeous color and delicious taste. Research in the journal Advances in Nutrition shows that flavonoids boost the immune system. Eat fresh blueberries on their own or atop salads or added to smoothies. Frozen blueberries that have been slightly thawed taste like blueberry sorbet and make a delicious dessert.
Grapefruit, lemons, limes, oranges and other citrus fruit are excellent sources of immune-boosting vitamin C, making them excellent choices to include in your daily diet. Juice them or add them to salads or salad dressings, or in the case of grapefruit and oranges, eat them on their own as a quick snack.
Flaxseeds and Flaxseed Oil
Flaxseeds and flaxseed oil contain plentiful amounts of the essential fatty acids known as Omega 3s that give your immune system a boost and help to keep it functioning well on a regular basis. Add flaxseeds or oil to your smoothie or top previously-cooked vegetables with a splash of flax oil and sea salt.
Rich in immune-boosting allicin, garlic helps to stave off colds and flu by giving our immune system a boost. Cooking reduces the potency of garlic but both cooked and raw garlic are still worth eating on a daily basis. Add some garlic to your soups, stews, chili and, of course, combined with chickpeas, lemon juice, tahini, olive oil and a touch of salt for a delicious hummus.
A beverage similar to yogurt but thinner, kefir comes from the Turkish word “keif” which means “good feeling” probably because let’s face it: we feel better when we’re not sick. Kefir offers immune-boosting health benefits due to its many different strains of beneficial bacteria and yeasts. Make sure the one you choose contains “live cultures.”
The national dish of Korea, kimchi is a spicy condiment that has been found in research published in the Journal of Medicinal Food to offer immune-boosting benefits.
Pumpkin seeds contain plentiful amounts of the immune-boosting fats known as Omega 3s, along with the essential immune health mineral, zinc, making them an excellent choice to include in your diet. Throw them on top of your salads, grind them and add them to flour for baking, or snack on them as is.
Raw, unsalted walnuts are rich sources of immune-boosting Omega 3 fatty acids. If you don’t like the taste of walnuts, I urge you to try ones that are raw, unsalted and kept in the refrigerator section of your health food store since they are typically fresher than the ones found in packages in the center aisles of the grocery store. The bitter taste most people attribute to walnuts is actually a sign they have gone rancid. Fresh walnuts have a buttery and delicious taste.
Yogurt and vegan yogurt contain beneficial bacteria that boost your gut health, which in turn, boost your immune system health. Make sure the yogurt you select contains “live cultures.”
Dr. Michelle Schoffro Cook, PhD, DNM is the publisher of the free e-newsletter World’s Healthiest News, the Cultured Cook, co-founder of BestPlaceinCanada, and an international best-selling and 20-time published book author whose works include: Be Your Own Herbalist: Essential Herbs for Health, Beauty, & Cooking. Follow her on Twitter.